By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood January 22, 2012 at 6:44PM
Four openings or wide releases positioned for unlikely Oscar nominations combine with some post-Golden Globe expansions to lead this week’s report. But the most significant development this week is the tripling of theaters for “The Artist,” which shows that film’s mild performance so far hasn’t yet improved, while “The Descendants” continues to play well.
“Miss Bala” (Fox International) – Metacritic score: 80
Estimated $34,000 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,500
Thought to be a strong Oscar Foreign Language Film contender, this didn’t make the short list. Its release date made sense if it had become a nominee. But unfortunately, it looks like this potentially strong film will now have trouble finding an audience. It did not get the theater placement it deserved – only one theater in NY (the Angelika, where it did OK), while in LA instead of a prime Arclight/Landmark platform, it has the Chinese, the Regent and a run in Pasadena. Rave reviews in the NYTimes and LATimes should have propelled this even without an Oscar nomination. Now the distributor will have to scuffle for play dates across the country.
What it means: It’s nice to get an Oscar nomination, but opening earlier (when the reviews might have had an impact on the committee) or later (when the reviews would have made more impact and more appropriate theaters would have been available) would have made more sense.
“The Flowers of War” (Wrekin Hill) – Metacritic score: 46
Estimated $54,000 in 30 theaters; PSA: $1,800
This previously had a reported great one-week qualifying run last month in NY, LA and San Francisco, leading to this getting some prime Landmark locations. The rest of this fairly wide initial platform included other cities, particularly in markets with a Chinese-American population. This WW II epic starring Christian Bale and directed by Zhang Yimou has been a massive hit in China in its first month. It also was China’s foreign language submission, but did not make the short list, making its release this week less relevant.
What it means: This is unlikely to sustain much further success, with both the reviews and the lack of any Oscar nomination not giving the distributor much more to build on.
“Coriolanus” (Weinstein) – Metacritic score: 79
$60,000 in 9 theaters; PSA: $6,667
This opened for a qualifying run last month with grosses unreported. Opening this week based on what once seemed a smart positioning for nominations (particularly Vanessa Redgrave for supporting actress), this now looks like it will be a very quick run with some but not major national expansion
What it means: For one thing, waiting a year from its Berlin premiere and four months after Toronto didn’t work out. This film deserved a better fate.
“Crazy Horse” (Zipporah) – no Metacritic score
$10,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $10,000
Playing at NY’s Film Forum, this Frederick Wiseman documentary with some strong reviews got the normal response from this theater.
What it means: Very much a niche film, with most of its future showing being at non-commercial theatrical venues.
“Ultrasuede” (Tribeca) – Metacritic score: 33
$4,000 in 1 theater; PSA: $4,000
This documentary on Halston is DOA on its NY exclusive release.
What it means: Other fashion-related docs have worked, but the bad reviews killed this before it had a chance.
“The Artist” (Weinstein) – week 9
$2,369,000 in 662 theaters (+446); PSA: $3,579; Cumulative: $12,117,000
It took a while, but the mediocre performance of “The Artist” is now common knowledge. This weekend though was the most important test yet. Weinstein tripled the theater total to capitalize on the Golden Globe wins and be in play as the nominations come out Tuesday. This is a common practice, and two of the last three eventual best picture winners had similar game plans, but with vastly different results.
In 2009, “Slumdog Millionaire” played on fewer theaters (582) with a per screen average (PSA) almost four times greater (over $12,000), and had already grossed $43.8 million. Last year, “The King’s Speech,” which has already gone much wider, took in $7,854,000 in 1,680, PSA of $4,700, total $57.3 million. Those are the normal standards for a best picture favorite at this stage of the game, and the popular acceptance of both those films likely helped them win their Oscars.
What it means: At this point, it is becoming difficult to bet against this winning Best Picture. But it is also increasingly difficult to bet that, with all the ongoing marketing expensive in supporting this week after week, that Weinstein will ever see anything like the strong revenues and profit “Slumdog” and “Speech” enjoyed. A further expansion is certain after the nominations, but particularly if it goes soon, this might be performing weakly going into the final stages of voting. The possible perception of audience disinterest (at the scale for a currently on-screen favorite, not for a French silent black and white film) might be the only major remaining obstacle to its winning best picture.
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (Warner Brothers) – week 5
$10,545,000 in 2,630 theaters (+ 2,624); PSA: $4,010; Cumulative - $11,237,000
Going wide this week for originally a good reason – to position itself for the once expected heavy nominations it would get. This now would be a shock, but the film performed perhaps around expectations after its weak platform NY/LA dates. But some context – WB didn’t exactly hide that Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock (top-billed) are in the film, and by their individual standards, this is a weak opening. “Larry Crowne,” considered a weak grosser, made just over $13 million its opening weekend, while “All About Steve,” Bullock’s weakest starring film in recent years, did more ($11.2 million).
What it means: Now (unless this is a surprise best picture nominee) its fate lies with WOM (word-of -mouth). The Cinemascore (in theater polling) was A- per Warners, which indicates decent reaction, but whether this can overcome the ongoing resistance to 9/11 storylines, particularly without any Oscar push, remains to be seen.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope)
$77,000 in 7 theaters; PSA: $11,000; Cumulative: $188,201
Five LA-area theaters came on board this week, including a few suburban runs, so the PSA actually is a bit more solid than it looks. Oscilloscope is playing this low-key – there is no ad in the Sunday LA Times today, just about unheard of. That in turn makes the grosses look even more credible.
What it means: Everything is now riding on Tilda Swinton’s likely but not certain best actress nomination.
“Pina” (IFC/Sundance Selects) – week 5
$120,000 in 10 theaters (+3); PSA: $12,000; Cumulative: $765,000
Adding Chicago and Boston, “Pina” continues to show life, although below the levels of the other current foreign language success (“A Separation.”) 3D pricing also is boosting its grosses.
What it means: Possible nominations for Foreign Language Film and/or Documentary Feature will further bolster, but on its own it is doing well so far.
“The Iron Lady” (Weinstein) – week 4
$3,707,000 in 1,076 theaters (+274); PSA: $3,445; Cumulative: $12,609,000
Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe win didn’t seem to boost this much if at all. Adding about a third more theaters kept the total gross fall to a modest 31%, but the PSA went down almost in half. This is performing very similarly to the pattern of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and its fall off (its second wide-release week PSA was $3605).
What it means: Streep’s best actress nomination likely isn’t a boost, since it has been a given all along. This could struggle to stay on screen anything as wide as now for the multiple weeks until the Oscars. At this point, the grosses point to mixed WOM.
“The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) – week 10
$2,450,000 in 560 theaters (-100); PSA: $4,375; Cumulative: $51,337,000
Up almost 17% despite losing 100 theaters, this had a solid post Golden Globe bounce, to put it mildly. This continues to completely outpace “The Artist” with moviegoers even as the latter strengthens its Oscar chances.
What it means: Fox Searchlight continues its virtuoso handling of the film with a planned expansion (though not at this point necessarily maximum total yet) next Friday. With nominations on Tuesday, my early week projection of ultimately grossing over $100 million is back in the range of possible, if not certain yet.
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus) - week 7
$1,831,000 in 730 theaters (-156); PSA: $2,508; Cumulative: $18,396,000
Having a normal falloff (PSA, with losing some theaters, was down around 30%), this is following a typical pattern for a good but not great high-end adult film, despite considerable competition for that more limited audience.
What it means: The future will be determined on Tuesday, with a possible best actor nomination and a more long-shot one for best picture being what would give this film further life.
“A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) – week 4
$183,000 in theaters (+7); PSA: $14,077; Cumulative: $555,000
Adding four new cities (Washington, San Francisco, Toronto and atypically San Diego), this continues to have strong grosses for an Iranian film (or any subtitled film these days). The reviews in the new markets kept the Metacritic score at an amazing 94.
What it means: Though it made the short list, never assume an actual Foreign Language film nomination, though if it doesn’t get one it would be big story. Sony Pictures Classics has this perfectly positioned to benefit at more cities open over the next few weeks. The way it is holding in current markets indicates that WOM will also help sustain this irrespective of its awards future.
"War Horse" (Buena Vista) - week 5
$3,003,000 in 2,525 theaters (-331); PSA: $1,189; Cumulative: $72,137,000
Lagging in the stretch, this is close to the end of its run under normal circumstances.
What it means: Getting a best picture nomination Tuesday (once assumed, now up in the air) will determine how many screens this continues to play on.
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (Sony) - week 5
$3,750,000 in 1,907 theaters (-767); PSA: $1,966; Cumulative: $94,775,000
Treading water at this point, with $100 million (the low end of initial expectations pre-release) looming.
What it means: How this fares with the nominations will determine how much above $100 million this will reach.
“Shame” (Fox Searchlight) – week 8
$240,000 in 95 theaters (+ 54); PSA: $2,526; Cumulative: $2,979,000
After falling in theater totals for a couple weeks, this went to its highest level yet. Though still mediocre, Fox Searchlight is positioned to add on quite a few more in coming weeks.
What it means: Michael Fassbender’s likely (though hardly certain) best actor nomination will determine this film’s future. If this happens, the around $10 million gross the somewhat similar “Blue Valentine” achieved is still possible.
“Young Adult” (Paramount) – week 7
$135,000 in 150 (- 237); PSA: $900; Cumulative: $16,072,000
This lost most theaters and is likely at the end of its very disappointing road.
What it means: Only a not impossible Charlize Theron best actress nomination will extend its life.
“My Week With Marilyn” (Weinstein) – week 9
$318,000 in 225 theaters (-175); PSA: $1,413; Cumulative: $12,057,000
The good news is that even though this lost nearly half its theaters after Michelle Williams’ GG actress win, the PSA went up. The bad news is that the returns are still very small.
What it means: Expect some presence for this after the nominations until the awards, but it’s hard to see the logic behind spending much more money to market this, particularly when Weinstein also has both “The Artist” and “The Iron Lady” to nurture.
“Hugo” (Paramount) – week 9
$912,000 in 650 theaters (+ 105); PSA: $1,403; Cumulative: $55,862,000
Paramount managed to get back into some theaters, which is pretty amazing. Many have partial show times, which makes the PSA look a little better and holdovers more likely.
What it means: With potentially the most nominations of Tuesday, this might be poised for some degree of a relaunch, depending on how much more money Paramount thinks they can afford to spend on this.
“Pariah” (Focus) – week 4
$62,200 in 21 theaters (-3); PSA: $2,962; Cumulative: $494,900
This had a not-bad falloff, but unfortunately it came from a weak start.
What it means: It reminds buyers at this year’s Sundance that what looked good last year didn’t work out as hoped later on.